Straight from the Star Wars legacy, the prophetic quote ‘May the Force Be With You’ has been tweaked for a generation of Open Source enthusiasts and innovators. Here we look at the Open Source surge and its parallel with Crowdsourcing.

What makes Software, Open Source?
The kind of software whose copyright holder freely shares its source code to be used by anyone and for any purpose. Open Source Initiative has defined some of the Open Source Software distribution and licensing criteria. Check out Github and Google code for a host of such works.

Along with the current developer connect, Open Source Software is increasingly adopted by various businesses, NGOs and universities. Even governments and city councils are using them, and are some early government entities to have embraced the open source movement – both these developed by Drupal’s open source technology.

Crowdsourcing for Government Projects
Last month at a Crowdsourcing Week (CSW) event, there was a slew of government solutions being discussed. They included Stephanie Grosser from USAID, who shared insights on government data validation and transparency, and how it helped optimize the government aid-giving process. Also, among the presentations were a candid talk on citizen participation and government legislations by Aleksi Rossi of Open Ministry Finland. Governments world over are slowly but surely starting to recognize the benefits of involving crowd experts in their development endeavors.

Open Source and Crowdsourcing, Different?
Well, Crowdsourcing is the new practice of harnessing collaboration for problem-solving, innovation and efficiency. It’s based on loose and open networks of both amateurs and professionals powered by new technologies, social media and web 2.0.

Like the above CSW definition, Open Source technologies too harness collaboration to enhance and (re)distribute works for further innovation and problem-solving. While crowdsourcing may include amateurs and professionals, open source development mainly involves technology professionals, a relative difference here.

However with both these being peer productions, they have much more in common and realize the value of collaborating with others. Those into self-organizing communities, tasks coordination, and sharing of learnings, have also played a pivotal role in enabling the creation of innovative products and services, better governance and education systems, and what not. Halabol is one such project, which integrates the best of crowd source and open source technologies to empower you, the citizen, to initiate a change.
So, may the source and force be with you!